How David Schermbeck Runs Marketing Like a Potter

As I sit in front of the wheel kneading a lump of clay in my hands, I’m determined to execute my vision. I lean in, start kicking the wheel and throw down the clay. It’s go time.

That amazing Dane, Eric Landon, makes it look effortless when he magically transforms clay into beautiful objects. When David Schermbeck rolled up his sleeves and sat at the wheel for the first time, he noticed it wasn’t quite that easy.

Pottery is all about experimentation and trying to produce what you conceptualize. With focused work, David can spin a piece of clay into something perfect. That’s what gets him fired up.

It’s about conceptualizing first

David finds inspiration for his next creation in his everyday life. In Raleigh, North Carolina, new buildings are popping up all over the city and sometimes a certain color or shape can leave an impression.

“I think my creation process starts with synthesizing the things that inspire me and turning that into something I really want to showcase.” Once he has a clear concept of what to make, he’s ready to turn the idea into a something tangible.

It’s about understanding the system and its moving parts

Watching a potter can be mesmerizing. Although the process seems effortless, pottery requires the coordination of a lot of moving parts. “You have to make sure that the wheel is spinning fast enough, that you have enough water, and that you’re applying pressure where you need to. The first time you try this, you don’t do any of those things right.”

That’s because, in addition to their individual functions, the moving parts must be perfectly orchestrated into a seamless system. If any one of the contributing parts is off, the final result won’t be as as good as it could be.

It’s about tackling a problem without reinventing the wheel

A lot of research has to happen before David can sit down to create a piece of pottery. Although his concept may be unique, he learns so much from the techniques of skilled potters.

“It’s trying to figure out how they made those raised edges around the base of the pot, or how they made that specific color of glaze, or how the type of clay they are using affects their hand motions”, he explained.

David ups his own skills by learning from the best, avoiding many pitfalls as a result. With the right tools and cutting edge techniques, his chances for success are exponentially higher.

It’s about evolution through an agile approach

Being a bit of a perfectionist, David was intrigued by the subtleties of pottery that make it so difficult. “Not getting it right the first or the second time was extremely frustrating,” he articulated. Pottery is a fluid process in which you have to take risks and try new methods in order to get it right.

“If you don’t create what you ultimately want, you can get rid of it. And when you finally get it right, you realize it’s actually the same clay that you messed up with a few minutes ago,” he explained. Since the time from failure to correction is shorter in pottery, David can shift his approach and see constant improvement with every attempt.


David runs marketing like a potter

In his current role as a Business Analyst at Red Hat, David Schermbeck powers the wheel that helps run marketing so that marketers can do more marketing. He may not be used to basking in the limelight, but his back-office work is integral to the success of every marketer in the company. With 207 global Allocadia users across 205 budgets, Red Hat’s marketing organization depends upon David’s expertise to ensure that the system as a whole can support all its moving parts.

David believes that even though the wheel is going, marketers shouldn’t have to think about the wheel at all. “We want their job to be making the clay pot, not making sure that the wheel is spinning at the appropriate pace.”

Alongside Ryan Danner, Director of Global Marketing at Red Hat, David has made it his personal mission to help marketers reduce time spent on budgeting to only 45 minutes per marketer, per month. “We have to give them the tools, the analytics, and the work flows necessary for that to happen”, he emphasized. His team is focused exclusively on workflows and how Allocadia fits into those workflows.

David’s day-to-day at the world’s first $2B open source company involves conceptualizing, developing and testing new dashboards. “I have a little bit of shiny object syndrome, so when I’m creating a dashboard in Allocadia, or determining what new clay object I want to tackle, it’s seeing something and then working backwards to figure it out.”

Like shaping raw clay, David is constantly improving on processes that are already in place at Red Hat, and he’s ready to scrap the ones that don’t work. “New meetings come up, new things come up. It’s moving so fast, which doesn’t mean that what you had before was wrong, it’s just that’s what you were capable of doing based on what you knew at the time.”

With an end goal of reaching marketing nirvana – true Marketing ROI – Red Hat is well on its way with its thoughtfully built Marketing Performance Management system and the support of Allocadia. David believes that ROI done right will fundamentally transform the way marketing is done in the future, it’s just a matter of building the right system.

Whether it’s earthenware or software, the first attempt at doing something new can be both challenging and exhilarating. The desire to get it right pushes David to the edge of innovation, where the risks he takes can lead to truly ground-breaking progress.

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